Mar 14, 2008
E&H Debuts Organic GreenhouseSource: E&H Greenhouses

Elzinga & Hoeksema’s (E&H) newest greenhouse embraces sustainability from top to bottom. E&H Greenhouses, one of southwest Michigan’s largest commercial greenhouse growers, has constructed “one of the Midwest’s first USDA-certified-organic commercial greenhouses built from the ground up,” according to a company press release.

Beginning in spring 2008, the new four-acre greenhouse, located in Kalamazoo, Mich., will supply a wide variety of organic vegetable and herb potted plants to Meijer retail stores throughout the Midwest.

The greenhouse was certified as United States Department of Agriculture Organically Certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the oldest organic certifying agency in the United States.

Organic growing excludes the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering or radiation. Instead, organic growers rely on integrated pest management, green manure, crop residue, compost and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests.

The new construction comes at a time when world organic sales are growing at a rapid pace, jumping from $23 billion in 2002 to $40 billion in 2006, according to the press release.

E&H’s organic greenhouse is distinctive from most other organic facilities built by large-scale midwestern greenhouse growers in that it was constructed from the ground up with its only function being the production of organics, the company emphasizes. Other greenhouse growers have converted existing non-organic greenhouses into organic producers, but few have constructed completely new facilities. Greenhouses converted from non-organic to organic must complete three organic growing seasons before being certified as organic.

The organic greenhouse has been under development for two years and required seven months to construct. Its layout includes two loading areas for transport of organic products, one packaging workstation, one dedicated sowing facility, 500 high-pressure sodium grow lights, a moveable bench system and a state-of-the-art irrigation booms.

Numerous details were designed into the organic greenhouse to ensure that it satisfied organic standards, including: the total physical separation of the organic production space from the non-organic operation and clean-room entry/exit devices. The organic greenhouse also features energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources.

Mark Elzinga, president of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, said sustainability is the cornerstone of their new organic facility. “We have also taken major steps toward making all of our greenhouse operations – both organic and non-organic – as eco-friendly as possible,” states Elzinga in the press release.

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